On the sofa with… Francisco Escobar, Head of Architecture and Integration, AIRBUS

Advanced Manufacturing – You have participated in the fair with the presentation “State of the art of CFRP developments of large components at Airbus”, what would you highlight from your intervention? What is the status of the use of composite materials in the field of aeronautics?

Francisco Escobar- Well, thank you very much. First, for the opportunity. Well, I will start with the second part. Composites, composites in general, in aeronautics and high performance carbon fiber composites, is more than mature.

We have the first developments, (I am speaking from memory), I am going back to the 70s of the last century, with structural applications already relevant up to the last aircraft certified by Airbus. The A350 has more than 50% of the aircraft’s primary structure in composite materials, both in the fuselage and in the wing. The remaining 50%, fifty percent of that half, is not carbonized, composites are not applicable. We are talking about traim, we are talking about other high load structural elements that are not carbonizable. But, right now it is a technology that is more than mature as a direct application in aeronautics in general, I am talking about aeronautics, large aircraft, operations, but also military aircraft.

As was pointed out in my lecture at the end and in several of the conferences that took place in the agora throughout the day. Now the big challenge is sustainability issues in all areas, recyclability, more efficient processes, low-cost materials, reuse, much more sustainable industrial systems. There have been at least three very interesting conferences from the point of view of quality, in this case of raw materials, materials with composite materials and their processes. And then our presentation I am proud to bring, since I am the messenger here, we have presented the latest development we have of a very important component in composite materials for an in-flight demonstrator of a highly efficient classroom from the mechanical point of view of flight, with very advanced active actuation and response systems. Our development part is finished and the flight test part is expected in a year, a year and a half.

AM – What benefits does the use of composite materials bring to this field?

F. Escobar – We also tried to point this out in the presentation. Composite materials still have, from the point of view of product design, a fundamental competitive advantage, which is weight. And then, from the point of view of costs, also, which is the classic paradigm until now, weight-performance of the structure or the aircraft, versus costs, they still give us many opportunities to develop concepts, aircraft architectures, structural concepts, very integrated, so that the part that is manufactured in composites, the whole, is a very integrated whole when it leaves the manufacturing plants and involves much less costs and assembly systems. On that balance, composites are very competitive. Now the third leg is missing, which I also explained in the conference, for many years now, when we do comparative studies, trade of structural solutions and aircraft architecture, we add to the weight analysis and cost analysis, a complete life cycle sustainability analysis, where we study in depth each of the solutions in the sustainability aspects.

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